Pamela Jean asked us about the useless items that we carry around with us, both the tangible items that we collect in our search for motherhood and the emotional weights that drag behind us. I have a few physical tokens: the blanket, the duck, sets of childrens’ silverware that we were going to use to announce our pregnancy to Manly’s parents, some stuffed animals that I tucked away years ago. I have been careful not to accumulate too many items, partly out of fear that they would become painful reminders of my past hopes and partly out of fear that I would be tempting the gods (and we see how that turned out).
My baggage is primarily in my mind. There are some things that I have been able to put down and quit carrying with me: my idealized worship of pregnancy as a universal good, my ignorance that pregnancies do not always equal babies, my confidence that any child of mine would be a perfect angel fulfilling every parents’ dreams. But there are many things that I haven’t yet let go of; I won’t buy this onesie for my niece, for example, because I so much want to put one on my own child someday. I can’t envision how to celebrate Christmas morning as only a couple. I still tear up when I think about never walking my son or daughter down the aisle at their wedding. And the thought of seeing Manly carry around a small blond copy of himself — ouch.
Moving away from actively trying has helped me start to give up some of the emotional idols I hold up about motherhood. Like Pamela Jean and Dianne both said, moving away a bit has given me some space for new dreams to start to grow. I’ve been able to start looking at alternate versions of my future that I never considered before: early retirement since we won’t have to pay for anyone’s college tuition, flying off to the beach on random weekends without finding babysitters, sex on the kitchen table, teaching my niece how to cook (because god knows she won’t learn it from her mother. Ooops – did I say that out loud? Sorry, my internal filter just malfunctioned.), the freedom to follow my career as it grows naturally instead of being constrained by school districts, being able to reconnect with my friends as they become empty-nesters, being the aunt who always has time for a child after their mother has several kids and not enough time anymore. I can’t remember where I saw it (I’ve been surfing some of Loribeth’s links the last few days), but as I get older, there will be more and more kids available for me to borrow, and more friends who are willing to pawn of their children to Aunt Sharah for a night alone. And all the other reasons that people choose to be child-free resonate as well.
Leaving infertility if a process. Internalizing the idea of being childfree, instead of considering myself childless, is a process. Some days are easy (go grocery shopping at Mal-Wart, and you’ll know what I mean), some days are hard. There may come a point in the future where I may have to step back into the wilderness of infertility and potential parenthood; we may decide to pursue more active treatment, or we might just get lucky one month. But I can’t go forward carrying all of this useless weight with me — so I’m choosing to leave it in the past, where it belongs.